Peter and Paul watch as Simon Magus plunges to his death, in this 1280 painting by an Italian known only as the Master of St. Peter, from the Church of San Pietro in Banchi, in Siena. So evil was this flying magician that later iconoclasts gouged out his face as well as those of the devils who accompany him and of the pagan emperor Nero, at left.

It is difficult to understand the animosity toward Simon based solely on the Book of Acts, where Simon confronts Peter but later relents. But, in the next few centuries, as the diverse factions of the early church began to come together, Simon proved to be a convenient scapegoat—the common enemy all Christians could unite against.